Despite all my complaints about the air and weather in GZ, today was a beautiful day…blue skies, warm during midday with a cool breeze. I wore sandals, jeans a t-shirt, and sunglasses. I actually saw the sunset and the moon at night. It’s feels like most summer days in VT.
Today, I also bought a new guitar. I’m excited about this! It’s made right here in GZ which is pretty neat I think. I did a terrible job bargaining because the owner knew I wanted it. But he was VERY nice once I actually decided to buy it. Finding the guitar store was a whole other story…I took the Line 2 subway to where there supposedly existed a musical instrument market. After many attempts to find it and many conversations with locals, I was told it no longer existed and I got an address to a music store nearby on Beijing Lu (a pedestrian shopping street). Unfortunately, they wrote down the name of the big superstore across the street from the music store so the cab would know where to go. Of course, the superstore had no guitars upon arrival and I was informed that the guitar market (which apparently does exist ) is very far away. At the last minute, one clerk remembered the music store across the street where I ended up buying my guitar. They also sold violins, and really interesting Chinese wind and string instruments. Now I need to figure out how to play this thing.
This is my third time trying to learn to play the guitar (once in grade school, once before we had our first kid, and now). I’m much more confident that I’ll actually learn this time (with the help of some lessons once I return stateside, or if my Chinese neighbor will teach me). In many ways, being in China can make one confront his/her own self-identity as an individual and an American. Personally, I realize that in my research I’ve become really interested in the interaction between personal well-being and environmental health (hence my new research focus on food), and I’m now comfortable enough with myself to let my hair grow long and play the guitar (things I’ve always wanted to do). It makes me also define my own American identity in comparison to other expats. For example, I like that with my expat friends here I can watch March Madness basketball and NCAA football, and grab a beer. But my views on the Chinese are less hostile and quite frankly less racist than most Westerners (since we’ve been afforded the opportunity to live in a middle-class Chinese community), and my take on the Chinese government while still often critical takes notice of internal politics (since I work and know people who tell me the straight dope on provincial and national political concerns). But, perhaps also interesting, my personal American identity is now clearly driven by (1) an American civic identity that would make Toqueville and the US Constitution proud (and I can explain to Chinese that American civic identity, like rule of law and civic discourse and debate as opposed to religion or force, makes us all Americans even if Americans look different and have different belief systems), (2) a new vision for America that embraces a larger welfare state and multi-culturalism, (3) and a lifestyle that is more “earthy, natural and cosmopolitan” (whatever that means) than perhaps is the American norm.